Our Pastor is Published in Gottesdienst: The Journal of Lutheran Liturgy

Gottesdienst (610x352)One of our pastor’s sermons was published in the Trinity 2013 issue of Gottesdienst: The Journal of Lutheran Liturgy.  Our pastor originally preached the sermon in the journal for a local pastors’ conference, commemorating St. Augustine.

To find out more about Gottesdienst, click here.  Below is his sermon for the Commemoration of Augustine of Hippo, Pastor and Theologian.


Revelation 7:9-12, 8:1-4

Hebrews 12:22-29


Augustine was born on November 13th, 354 in North Africa, about 45 miles south of the Mediterranean Sea.  Like all of us, he was born dead in his trespasses and sins.  Like some of us, he was not brought into the Church until he was a man.

Augustine was a typical man of his time.  He did have a Christian mother, who was an adult convert.  But it seemed that Christianity would end with her and no one else in her family would live in faith.  For worldly pleasures, not eternal promises, had captured Augustine’s heart.  He lived with a woman, never bothering to marry her.  Doesn’t that sound typical of life today?

Augustine later moved to Italy.  And when around 30, he met a man named Ambrose, who was the bishop of Milan.  It was through Ambrose’s robust confession of the faith that God the Holy Spirit first brought Augustine into the Church in 387, into which he was baptized when 32 years old.  It wasn’t seeker services or entertainment-styled worship that brought him into the Church, but tried-and-true evangelism: one person bringing Jesus to another through word and deed.

Augustine eventually became a bishop back in his old stomping grounds of North Africa.  He became the bishop of Hippo (today in Algeria).  As bishop, he had to contend against several popular trends of his day.  That’s nothing new.

God always calls His Church to be faithful, where she continues to formed and made in Christ’s image, not our own.  Augustine strove against a popular movement called Donatism.  Donatists asserted that the Church’s holiness depended on the holiness of her members, especially her pastors.  But Augustine said that they had it backwards.  He taught and preached that the Church’s holiness didn’t come from her members, but from Jesus Christ.

Well, in the year 430, like all mortals, Augustine died.  He is now with the saints and angels in eternity before the Triune God.  As our first reading told us, he, with the saints and angels in eternity, worship and pray to the Triune God.

Yet, what is this worship like and how is it to shape our worship?  In eternity, is Augustine in the same Church as we are?  Or is there some separate and unrelated Church in eternity and a different one on earth?

Our 2nd reading answers that for us.  When you come to the Divine Service, you come to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.  That means that when you’re at the Divine Service here, you’re also in God’s heavenly city.  Now, it may not seem like that, but it’s still true.  God’s Word declares it to be.  Where Jesus gathers us around Himself to hear His preached Word and receive His Body and Blood, The Church in heaven and on earth join in a mysterious way.

Even in the Old Covenant, God told Moses to make an earthly place of worship as “a copy and shadow of what is in heaven” (Exodus 25:40, Hebrews 8:5).  So, both the Old and New Covenants tell us that our worship is to be a copy and shadow of heavenly worship!  That’s why the Church’s liturgy also tells us that we worship with the “angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven.”  With them, “we laud and magnify” God’s glorious name.

God doesn’t want a distorting dissonance between His saints on earth and His saints in eternity.  After all, we worship the same God.  After all, when we worship, we join with them in their eternal worship.  That’s why our worship is to be a copy and shadow of heavenly worship!

Imagine that.  When you worship on earth, you are also worshiping with St. Augustine.  When you worship on earth, you are also worshiping with the earliest, New-Testament Church pastors: Ignatius, Polycarp, Papias, Clement, Irenaeus, to name a few.  You are also worshiping with grandma and grandpa, if they died in the one, true faith.

So, how do the saints in heaven worship?  They collapse (that’s pipto in the Greek) and fall down (proskeneuo) in worship before God.  Even in their eternal, sinless state, they worship God in fear, reverence, and humility.  The book of Revelation shows us this in its strong, descriptive imagery.  Indeed, the book of Revelation shows us what God-shaped worship looks like.

Did you know that it’s not until the last chapter in Revelation, after Jesus has come to judge the living and the dead, where that eternal reality changes.  It’s then that worship is described–not as falling down before God (proskeneuo)–but worship in general (latreuo).  And it’s then that the saints in eternity reign with God (Revelation 22:3-5).

But let’s not rush it.  We’re not there yet.  We’re not even in heaven.  We’re still strapped to our sinful nature, still needing to repent, still needing to be taught the truths of the faith.  And so we go back to the book of Hebrews.  And this Word is especially for you, my dear brothers in the Office of the Holy Ministry.

We live in turbulent times, when the Church in North American is being shaken to her core.  We have lost confidence in what God has given us to do.  The old ways of preaching the Word and administering the Sacraments no longer seem to work.  People don’t want that.  People don’t know what worship is.  That doesn’t appeal to their baser nature.  That’s not exciting and fun.

Oh, we still officially confess what we should.  We claim:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.  But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, and sanctified and kept me in the true faith.

In the same way, He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps her with Jesus Christ in the one, true faith.  (Small Catechism, Third Article of the Creed)

But our actions show that we do not believe what we confess.  For if we honestly believed that God the Holy Spirit “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth,” then how we would “do church” would look different.  Our worship would look more like what we see in Revelation, instead of what we see in our congregations.  We would worship God in “reverence and awe” like our reading from Hebrews tells us.

So, we say one thing with our mouths yet do another with our actions.  Do not be fooled!  What we believe shapes and forms what we do.  This is true in our individual lives.  This is also true when we gather as a congregation.

Repent!  Believe what you confess.  Be faithful to your ordination vows.  For God has called you into a kingdom that cannot be shaken.  Do not let your fears and anxieties drive what you do as a pastor.  For if God’s kingdom cannot be shaken, that means it’s not up to you to make God’s kingdom what it’s supposed to be.  Instead, you are to be faithful.

Like Augustine, be faithful and leave the results to God.  When you are faithful and leave the results to God, you then stand before the world within an unshakable kingdom.  When you are faithful and leave the results to God, you will do more than lead God’s people safely through the tremors of their lives.  You will also enable them by the God’s Gospel power to be ready for the last, great quake, that is, the Last Day, without fear and trembling.

Why is this so?  It’s because God gives to His people the gifts of His mercy earned for us by His Son’s death and resurrection.  God delivers such mercy to us through the Gospel: His Word properly preached, through Baptism and His Supper, administered by those in the Office of the Holy Ministry.

Dear pastor, you are not some mere afterthought or something optional in Christ’s Church.  Christ told His first, New-Testament pastors, His Apostles, to feed His flock.  During these tempestuous times, be faithful in feeding Christ’s flock.  For they need what you need: Jesus Christ!  They don’t need gimmicks and dazzle and whoring after the latest trends.  In Augustine’s day, the latest trends were Donatism and Pelagianism.  Today, it’s consumerism in the Church.

The flock God has entrusted to you doesn’t need some product of its choosing.  They need what you need: the unchanging Word of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, died, risen, and ascended for our continuing salvation.  Be that pastor and let that reality shape what you preach and do.

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).

What’s acceptable worship?  It’s that you embrace the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation that Jesus earned for you on the cross, and now delivers to you through His gifts.  What’s acceptable worship?  It’s that you do not fear while the world shakes around you and everything you know and trust begins to shake with it.  Instead, you place your full trust and confidence on God’s “kingdom that cannot be shaken” made real for you through Christ’s forgiving, life-giving body and blood.

So, come and receive that which cannot be shaken: Jesus Himself in His body and blood.  And because the Word Himself cannot be shaken, come to receive Him, the life-giving draft of immortality.  Amen.